Diving in the British Virgin Islands
The most recognized dive in the
British Virgin Islands
owes its popularity to the 1977 movie, The Deep, and probably in large part to Jacqueline Bisset, and the vision of her exploring the wreck in the underwater scenes in the movie. That said, for any divers in the British Virgin Islands, the RMS Rhone is worthy of dozens of dives, even without Ms. Bisset. Just off Salt Island at Black Rock Point, this iconic dive site and wreck is justly considered one of the top dives in the world. The wreck, which has been down since, 1867, is dived in two sections, the bow and the stern. The wrecks have become a vibrant, colorful reef, with a ghostly profile defined by the ribs and remains of the ship. Shoals of snapper roam the wreck, which is covered with orange cup corals, sponges and corals. A true kaleidoscope of textures, many parts of the ship such as davits, portholes and bulkheads form the scope of this impressive dive.
Exceptional diving can be found off the approximately 60 islands that make up the BVIs. The visibility averages 100-feet and includes wrecks, shallow coral gardens, spur and groove, pinnacles, drifts, walls, canyons and swim-throughs. So, there’s something for everyone. The selection depends upon which island and which dive resort you’re staying. Most of the diving takes place off Norman, Peter, Salt, Cooper, Peter, Virgin Gorda, and the Dogs.
In addition the Rhone, the 246-foot Chikuzen is quickly rising up the ranks through its stellar reputation for attracting just about everything in the sea due to its exposed location 7.5 miles off Tortola. Virtually intact, but lying on its port side, the wreck ripples with huge aggregations of schooling fish, as well as passing sharks, turtles and rays.
Most of the reef dives in the British Virgin Islands are not particularly deep or demanding, making it a great place for divers of all levels. And since all of the waters off the BVI are protected by the National Parks Trust and mooring buoys, the site are well known for their abundance and variety of marine life, including huge groupers, snapper, tarpon, jacks and all the interesting blennies, eels and invertebrates that like to hang out in the reefscape. The Baths, on Virgin Gorda, while not a dive site, is a memorable and unique place to snorkel and explore among the massive rocks on this beach.
Visibility hovers between 60-100 feet, but the outer reefs can push 120-feet, and the water temperature fluctuates between 78°F and 82°F. Read about BVI’s dive sites here.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: All U.S. citizens are required to present a passport, and do not need to obtain a visa. EXIT REQUIREMENTS: All persons leaving the British Virgin Islands pay a Government Departure Tax of approximately USD $20 leaving by air.
Vaccinations are not required for entry into the British Virgin Islands. Check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at cdc.org.
Culture and Customs
Probably more than any other Caribbean island, pirates and pirate lore have become an indelible part of the fabric of life in the British Virgin Islands. Pirates from Blackbeard to Henry Morgan, and their exploits, are celebrated in the BVI's with a strong reverence. There are numerous places, such as Norman and Dead Chest Island, with rumors of lost pirate gold. The islands also have become renowned places to sail, with many secluded and quiet coves and bays throughout to drop anchor and enjoy that certain freedom offered by sailing the whims of the wind. The British Virgin Islands has several bars that are only accessible by boat, too. Carnival is widely celebrated in late July and there are numerous festivals throughout the year that celebrate culture, music, food, heritage, and dance.
Electricity, Telephone and Internet Access
Electricity in St. Vincent is 110/220volts, 60 cycles, so no adapter will be needed for US visitors. The country code for the British Virgin Islands is 284 and direct dial service is fast and clear. Check with your service provider for long distance/roaming information and costs. Internet service is available at the larger hotels and resort and at Internet cafes.
Water quality is good throughout most of the islands. Bottled water is recommended.
Language & Currency
English is the official language. The local currency is the U.S. dollar.
The British Virgin Islands are in the Atlantic Time Zone (AST) and they do not observe Daylight Savings Time. The BVIs are 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT).
History, Art, and Culture
When Columbus saw the Virgin Islands Archipelago, he named then after the 11,000 virgins that followed Saint Ursula. The Spanish quickly followed in his wake looking, of course, for gold. None was found, so they moved on, which left the Virgin Islands unprotected and Pirates, freebooters and other famous rogues, found a way of life among these islands looting passing vessels. Most ships that ventured from the New World to Europe had to pass through a gauntlet that included Blackbeard, Sir Frances Drake, and others. The British came in the 17th century and established sugar plantations. When slavery was abolished, the plantations crumbled and life was peaceful until the 1960s, when tourism kicked in to take advantage of the charm, enchantment, and beauty of the British Virgin Islands. Read about historic sites in British Virgin Islands here.
Location and Size
The British Virgin Islands are a British overseas territory located in the Caribbean, East of Puerto Rico. They cover approximately 58 square miles (about equal to the size of Washington, D.C.) The BVI’s are made up of nearly 60 islands. The capital of the British Virgin Islands is Road Town, located on Tortola, which is the largest of the islands approximately 12 miles long and 3 miles wide.
The population of the British Virgin Islands is 30,659 (2016).